A Veteran’s Day prayer

Dear God,

We thank you for our soldiers. Protect them in combat, and fortify their spirits for the journey that follows battle. Lord, shine Your all-healing light on the hearts, souls and bodies of the men and women who have been wounded physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at war. Bless them that they may experience Your unconditional love and acceptance shining through the friends, family and communities to which they return. Bless us all that we may generously receive our veterans and support them as they have so magnanimously given of themselves for us.

Amen

Sgt. Homer G. Hughey, my grandfather, and my dad.

Living life out of the blogosphere

Image

Pardon the blogging silence. I’ve been having difficulty finding time to write lately, which is odd considering I now have 12.5 hours each week to myself while both boys are in school. (Not to worry, even when they’re gone, they leave plenty of reminders of their existence…exhibit A: the viking battle axe tucked into the towel hook this morning.)

I thought my blog frequency would explode with the start of school.

Instead, I’m using the time to do lovely and important things like execute my freelance work, vacuum the clumps of dog hair, take in an occasional yoga class, prep and make dinners, run errands, put laundry away and walk the dogs. I’ve even taken myself on a couple soul-dates. The idea comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, in which she recommends you take your inner artist on an “artist date” each week. For my purposes, they’re “soul dates” and I hope to do one each week with a mission of connecting with and honoring myself on a deeper level in some way. I set a specific intention before each soul date.

For example, in the yoga class I’ve attended a couple times, my intention was to just be with my body and to love it, nourish it with powerful movement and appreciate what it can do. I may not be runway-ready but, wow, my body surprises me with its strength, flexibility and courage to try anything.

The other soul date was a trip to King Spa, a Korean sauna, which bears a little more detail. For this adventure, I had three intentions:

1. To dedicate a full five hours to being silent, still and open to releasing toxins. After five years of nearly constant motion chasing my kids around, the variety of uncrowded saunas there were the perfect place for ushering in this new era of increased opportunity for stillness. I particularly liked the charcoal room for its grounding, the amethyst room for its cleansing and the Bul Ga Ma for the penetrating but not overwhelming heat. By the end of my visit, I was able to lie completely still and my mind was equally as quiet. For an always-moving girl like me, it’s hard to get still on the inside. But, for all you similarly fast twitching ones out there, it can be done!

2. I also wanted to take another step in getting comfortable with myself, exactly as I am, so I spent some time in the women-only area, taking steams followed by dips in pools of various temperatures, all without the comfort of clothing. It was terrifying, to say the least, to be naked with other women. At one point, the attendant reminded me to leave my tiny towel on the shelf before proceeding. I’d been using it to try to cover up as much as possible and, to my surprise, when the tiny swath of cotton was taken away, I was somehow able to make it from the steam room to the cold pool to the hot pool to the body scrub area and back again without once panicking. I daresay I even felt relaxed by the end of my time there. The gap in comfort levels between me and the older Korean and Polish women scrubbing their own skin in the open showers was notable, but I’m making strides. And it feels pretty awesome.

3. My final intention was to pave the way to fresh, new beginnings. So I decided to brave the unsmiling 60-something Korean woman wearing only a bra and panties for a Korean body scrub. Scrub away the old, welcome in the new. I planked my naked self down on a slippery plastic table as Sally yanked my arms and legs and head all over the table, scouring every patch of skin on my body with a brillo pad. I can’t explain it any better than one Yelp reviewer: “The body scrub was uncomfortable, at times painful, embarrassing and borderline humiliating. That being said… where have you been my whole life, Sally? I will be back in a couple months for a S & M fix.” Unfortunately, or I would’ve enjoyed both the scrub and 50 Shades of Grey a lot more, I’m not cut from the same cloth as this reviewer, but her words rang true and I had to appreciate the amount of dead skin that was removed (goodbye, golden tan, sniff-sniff) and the therapy of the whole thing. In the past, being naked in front of other people in full light would’ve been the most horrific torture I could imagine. Now, I’m happy to say, I’m conquering that fear. It was a silly fear, anyway, when I think of it. We’re so much more than our bodies.

Since the body scrub, I’ve been filling my non-alone time with couch snuggles, live music, weddings, city exploring, dog cuddles, kid pedis and just regular life. I’ve been going to bed early so that I can get my requisite eight hours of sleep before rising at 6:15 a.m. to get the boys out the door to school each day. Until I stabilize in the new routine of school life, I’ve accepted that my blogging and social media time will take a back seat to the deep exhale of “me” time. I miss posting each week, but it feels essential to me that I enjoy a nice, long exhale before beginning to inhale again. It’s that basic, and that true.

I’m unsure of what my next soul date will be, but I’d love ideas if you have them. Please share!

 

Following are some snaps of life the past few weeks: Kip contemplating the sky while listening to Bestfriends play at the Chipotle Cultivate Fest; the pic Kip snapped of me after he put the headband on my head all by himself at Cultivate; symphony concert at Millennium Park; the Field Museum; the beach; baking cookies for after-school snack; my plate of delicious BBQ heaven at Ben and Liz’s rehearsal dinner in KC; enjoying the Ben-and-Liz love fest with a few of my beloved Fogel cousins; laughing with my beautiful sister at our cousin’s wedding.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

#7 Enoughness Project Series: Surviving SuperTarget

Image

There are a million ways to take care of yourself. Eating apples, as they say, is one. I think I may have discovered a new way: When I need a particular material item, instead of embarking on a bargain-hunting rampage, I will treat myself by shopping intentionally and buying good quality. Also, this is apple is for real. My teeth don’t always leave hearts in the food they bite, but when they do, they make it awesome.

Target. I went there today.

In the first five minutes, I fingered three swimsuits, ran my hands across one dress, eyed some colorful shoes and scarves and put two bras in my shopping cart. I’ve needed a new swimsuit since last summer. And I figured the bra counted as self-care…one of those necessary sorts of things.

I took the bras out of the cart a moment later. “I’ve bought this brand before,” I thought. “These don’t fit well. They’re not comfortable. This racerback is going to make my shoulders hurt just like the last one I bought here. If I really need a bra, I’ll get one at Nordstrom. Do I really need one? Eh. Not really.”

After eyeing the swimsuits, which I’d never try on while with my two kids at Target—such a pain to haul three people into that dressing room—I likewise determined that, if I really need a swimsuit, I will go somewhere, actual or online, that sells swimsuits. I will find one for my body type and possibly spend a little extra money to make sure it fits well and becomes me.

Maybe this spending hiatus will help remove impulsiveness from my buying and replace it with intention, premeditation and greater quality purchases. Once the shopping ban is lifted after these three months, when it comes to things I need, buying finer rather than on-sale-er things may be one true way of honoring my own enoughness.

Now that I think of it, occasionally buying myself things that are good rather than “affordable” feels a little bit like a new brand of self care to me. (the act of buying itself is not my self-care, but rather the act of choosing quality over fire sale is what feels like self-care to me.) And I’m definitely on board with more of that.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

I make the shift from fear and scarcity to piles of wealth and one sick garage

At least the rug is ok

Disaster averted: my favorite rug survived the plumbing snafu. I’m choosing to focus on gratitude for a salvaged rug rather than the giant hole in our basement floor.

What a week for playing with energy. Brian and I made a decision to shift down in our expenditures. Following Christmas, a wedding, a vacation, a baptism and a preschool tuition payment, we wanted to take 30 days to chill on spending and, you know, just get caught up. So, like, no major purchases or anything, ok, Babe? And be careful at Target if you go…

I believe Brian’s energy in the money-management conversation was easy, straightforward and practical. I, however, went to my extra-loaded mental space about money. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been spending so carelessly lately, I mean, I didn’t need that necklace at Target, and now we don’t have any money, and it’s all my fault and I better cancel that date we have planned in a couple weeks so we don’t have to pay a sitter and I must figure out how to stop this freak out I’m having because it feels horrible and it’s definitely not helping the situation, but what am I supposed to do—it’s what I know? And, as we just discussed, we’re desperate for money. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Cue the tears.

Whoa, girl. I went off the deep end of my own neuroses, inventing a crisis where none existed. And I rode that trail, no pulling back on any reins. Right on time, just when I fearfully cross over into the land of scarcity…

1. The dishwasher stops working right after a dinner party. (While taking apart the dishwasher, our repairman finds a stick—from a tree—lodged in the pump.)
2. The sink next to the washing machine overflows, flooding part of the basement floor, which includes a section of my favorite rug. (The rug is ok now, not to worry.)
3. While routing the basement pipe that leads to the catch basin, the plumber encounters something that bends his router, which emerges covered in mud, so he deduces an underground pipe has collapsed and needs to be replaced. And then he jackhammers our basement floor to reveal a pipe the diameter of an adult head, almost completely clogged with 100 years of dense gunk. And dog hair. (I hope you never have to see this.)

Sliding doors removed, washer and dryer relocated, the plumber jackhammered his heart out.

Sliding doors removed, washer and dryer relocated, the plumber jackhammered his heart out.

Even my friend, who heard the jackhammery commotion from another house, texted to say, “it sounds expensive over there,” which made me laugh. She was right. But somewhere in the days between my conversation with Brian, the interior monologue meltdown, the three-feet-long Home Depot parts receipt on my kitchen counter and the check I wrote yesterday, it didn’t feel expensive anymore.

My sweet husband disagrees with me on this, but I feel like I’m responsible for bringing this on all at once—not the actual occurrences, but the timing of them. In essence, everything we process consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously, from physical sensations and material objects to words and thoughts, is energy. At its base level, that’s all stuff actually is. Energy. Even scientists can agree on that. And if you’ve ever had a coach, you’ve probably been told something to the effect of “You’ll get out of it what you put into it.” That’s how it works with a workout, for example, and that’s how it works with the universe, too.

So, when I put the energy of fear and scarcity out there regarding my finances, what comes back to me? Proof of my own fear. More things that take money away from me. An ancient, horrifying clog blocking the flow of water in a giant, important pipe. (How’s that for a metaphor?)

Now that we have water flowing freely again, and a smooth patch of new cement marking the removal of a pipe that was no longer of service to us, I’m noting my own routing, repairing and reinvention in this process.

As such, when I wrote that check to Bradley the plumber, it actually felt good. I thanked him for coming over at 9 p.m., for staying till he’d figured everything out, for taking a little more than 24 hours to complete such a ginormous job, for reuniting me with our washing machine, for mopping the floor to perfection and for being so generally delightful to our whole family. I was so grateful to have a prompt, eager, hardworking, delightful plumber to solve our problem. When facing the effects of a fear-and-scarcity mentality, I find love and gratitude is the most medicinal cocktail.

Affirmations also are helpful. Here are a few crafted by the luminous Allyson File, creator of Feeding Sparrows, a site dedicated to sharing the magic of affirmations with kids and families. “I love this one,” she says of the first below. “When feelings of lack or worry creep in my body and make me feel yucky, this affirmation makes me feel fresh and good again.” I concur. Here are some of her faves, and she says them often. Starting now, I will be saying them, too. (See here for Allyson’s tips on using affirmations.)

  • I pay my bills with love as I know abundance flows freely through me.
  • Life is full of abundance therefore, I accept all the abundance that comes my way.
  • My income is always increasing.
  • I am always supplied with whatever I need.
  • I prosper wherever I turn.
  • I am open to new avenues of income.
  • I rejoice in what I already have and know that abundance is all around me.

I’ll take this as a sign, Mr. Plumber Graffiti Writer, and I thank you. (I accept all the abundance that comes my way.)

As Bradley the plumber and his sidekick were leaving, I asked the sidekick if he, too, had been working in plumbing since he was 14. “Nah,” Bradley said. “Onik is a writer.”

“You’re a writer? Me, too!” I exclaimed.

“I guarantee you don’t write like Onik does,” Bradley declared.

“Uhh, I’m sure you’re right,” I responded. “So, what kind of writing do you do?”

“Lemme show you,” Onik literally hopped over to me and opened up a photo on his phone.

It was a giant mural, painted in the style we urban mommies would call “graffiti.” And it was awesome.

We have an old, tilting garage that opens up on our alley in Chicago, and I’ve been looking for a graffiti artist to beautify it for literally years. (I totally don’t get it—why don’t I know more graffiti writers? I mean…don’t they hang out at coffee shops, wine bars and preschool playgrounds?)

For some unknown reason, the plight of graffiti writers (and I’m not referring to the gang-bangers who tag stuff all over my neighborhood) really gets me. Maybe my graffiti passion is rooted in that lovely old boyfriend sitting me down to watch “Basquiat” more than a decade ago, but I want these urban artists to have a canvas for their self-expression, and I get all concerned that there’s not enough opportunity for them to legally create. I want to give them an endless array of concrete walls and plywood boards and underpasses and viaducts and, frankly, my garage door, so that they can express themselves.

After gushing to Onik about his work, and confessing my long-held desire to have our garage door written upon, and admitting I probably couldn’t afford him, he enthusiastically offered to paint it for me for the cost of the spray paint.

Although I seem to be in the business of commissioning original art these days, I was not aware I had the budget for it.

Thank you, Universe.

(Stay tuned for summer, at which point, as a result of all this clearing and recalibrating, I should have piles of wealth and one sick garage.)

A prayer

Dear God,

We ask you to place the healing poultice of Your love, grace and peace upon the hearts of all who feel the pain of today’s tragedy.

Bless the children who were killed today. As they leave behind their young bodies, may their ageless souls be filled with the bliss and the joy of knowing You. Once fully revitalized by Your light, if in the highest and greatest good for all, may these dear children also assist their loved ones in finding peace from the other side.

Send Your angels to the families of those who lost children or parents. Swiftly and safely deliver them through the grieving process, that they may ultimately emerge from this terror filled with the awareness of Your presence in all things. It’s hard for us to see Your presence in this, God, so help us all.

Bless advocates on all sides of the gun issue with the courage to look earnestly and with clear eyes at our system. Unite the hearts of those in power to conceive a solution together. May they act quickly and decisively on Your ideal antidote to this dis-ease in our nation. God, inspire them to Your perfect plan.

Bless those who are mentally ill to any degree, that they easily may find the support and services necessary to lead lives of peace. Protect us all.

Bless, too, the man who killed these children. May his soul be healed, his evil be cleansed by Your light and the horrors of his actions be assuaged in the consciousness of our nation.

God, please send Your angels to everyone experiencing the devastation of today’s events, and make us all conscious of our power to change the world for the better, forever, beginning with our own loving thoughts and empowered visions of ourselves, our loved ones and our planet. Bless us all into Your great, healing light.

And so it is. Thank you, God.

Amen

This daring spring

Image

Planting seeds for myself, my family and for the world.

A week ago, I got together with a group of women I’ll call the goddesses to celebrate the spring equinox. We each took three small pieces of paper and wrote down “seeds” we wanted to plant for ourselves, for our family and for the world, respectively. The only rule was that each seed must be something simple and attainable (i.e.; reaching out more to your neighbors and building a sense of community in the neighborhood rather than asking for world peace.) We then “planted” our seeds of intention by tossing each piece of paper into a fire so that it would be transformed and go out into the world to become reality.

There, around the fire on the back patio of my goddess-like friend’s house, I was reminded that even while the earth may not visibly radiate with the magic of the universe, as we see in the year-round plant life of milder climes, the magic is there, and it has been gathering, volcano-like, beneath the cold, cracked surface, gaining energy and waiting for the right moment to erupt.

Image

“Look, Mommy. I’m in a star shower!”

Accordingly, this spring has exploded with unabashedly glory. It’s ambitious. Daring. It’s not even April and the tulip trees are in full grandeur, hyacinth perfumes the air and our maple has neon green shooting from its branches. The divine is surging in the fearlessness of the tulips, open wide in the sun, and in the summery glow on my sons’ cheeks, framed with sweaty hairlines from hours of play.

The earth is leading by example, showing us how to sprout beauty at will.

The season for rebirth may have come earlier than expected, at least in Chicago, but the energy in the universe is supporting everyone’s spring into a full, vibrant expression of self. Let’s not wait for someone to tell us when the time is right, or operate under man-made laws about what, when and how to follow our hopes and dreams. Let’s just go for it. Plant some seeds and burst forth in all our glory.

Image

Just one of the ways in which I’m following the lead of this ambitious spring: Ignoring rules that say you must serve spaghetti with meatballs. Forget that! I’m dressing my favorite Caesar salad with my grandma’s delicious sauce. Why didn’t I go for this sooner? It’s awesome! And, for those concerned, the romaine really holds up under the heat of the meatballs. (It may sound silly, but vibrant rebirth actually can start this small.)